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Purdey Sporter 12-bore on test

Becky McKenzie weighs up the qualities of this pedigree over-and-under shotgun

Shooting a Purdey

Purdey Sporter 12-bore

Manufacturer: Purdey

Price as reviewed: £42,500

At the end of last year, I received an email from Purdey at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School (RBSS), inviting me to a ladies’ shooting afternoon. As I didn’t really want to spend a load of money just before Christmas, I thought, instead, to send the people at Purdey an email to see if they’d be interested in letting me do a gun review for Sporting Gun.

I sent the email and then went on the Guntrader website to have a look at some Purdeys. After picking myself up off the floor, I thought that maybe I had made a mistake in sending the email, as they were somewhat above the value of guns that I am used to. I need not have worried, however, as a nice gentleman called Andrew Ambrose replied, saying that they’d love for me to come down to the RBSS and test their Sporter.

Purdey Sporter 12-bore

The gun features top-quality wood and beautiful detailing

Reviewing the Purdey Sporter 12-bore

I actually felt quite honoured that they’d let me shoot one of their guns but, for some reason, my email highlighted the Ambrose in Andrew Ambrose, so I proceeded to call him Ambrose – not the most auspicious of starts. We arranged a day to meet and I was warmly greeted on arrival with a coffee by the roaring log fire. I introduced myself to ‘Ambrose’ and almost died of embarrassment when I realised that his name was Andrew.

Anyway, Andrew laid out on the table three of the new Sporters – a 12-, 20- and 28-bore. I had only brought 12-bore cartridges, so the 12-bore it was. The Purdey Sporter 12-bore was originally designed and launched in 2008 and was partly made in Italy in collaboration with Perugini & Visini. However, as of last year, production is now entirely at Purdey’s in-house factory in Hammersmith, London, along with all their other models.

The Purdey Sporter 12-bore is steel proofed as standard and is designed to handle high volumes of cartridges. This is the first Purdey model in its range to incorporate its special anti-corrosion coating to all the internal parts of the action. Given the British weather, this is a good thing. The new model features a specially designed rose and scroll engraved pattern, as well as the classic Purdey starburst on the base of the action. This design is an innovation of the traditional rose and scroll design that Purdey has been using on its sidelock models for around 150 years.

Purdey Sporter 12-bore

Becky finds the Purdey lighter than her usual gun, but she soon gets into the swing of it

As with all Purdeys, the client can choose their own wood for the stock, and every stock is custom-made to fit each client. On the demo gun’s stock, the length of pull was around 14¾in, standard height, not Monte-Carlo and with a sort of swept-back Prince of Wales-style palm grip. The gun I tried was the 12-bore, with 30in barrels, which I am swaying towards more these days than 32in, with Teague chokes. At the time of shooting, I asked what chokes were in it and was told open and slightly less open. After shooting I was told the chokes were Skeet and improved cylinder. Hmm. The weight of this 12-bore was 7lb 10oz.

Purdey & Sons has served the Royal Family since 1838, but it wasn’t until 1868 that they received their first Royal Warrant as gunmakers to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Over the years, Purdey has worked hard on innovations and technology. (Read more on the history of Purdey here.)

Eventually, the Sporter was born, and in 2018 the Purdey trigger-plate arrived, which combined the aesthetics of Purdey’s best over-and-under shotguns with the action of the Sporter. This created a gun specifically to handle the heavier loads for high pheasant shooting but one that I was champing at the bit to test on the clays.

Purdey Sporter 12-bore

The internal parts of the action are protected with an anti-corrosion coating

On shouldering it for the first time, it came up quite well. The quality of wood on this ‘entry level’ Purdey was excellent and, as I was warned, this was a demo gun, so it had taken a few knocks here and there. Off we went to the first stand, an extremely easy slow driven. Putting on my best stance, gun down, calling “pull”, I slowly slipped the gun into my shoulder, came from behind, swung through, stuttered, jerked and missed. Uh-oh! “Pull.” Missed again! The gentleman who was escorting us around politely told me that I was in front. I knew.

What was happening? I was struggling to pull the trigger. “What is the weight of the trigger?” I asked Andrew, bowing my head in embarrassed disgust that I had missed the easiest target in Berkshire. “It’s around 3½lb,” he replied. So, not the trigger. Then, a ‘light bulb’ moment. What was the weight of the gun? It was 7lb 10oz. Ah, here was the problem. I am used to shooting a gun weighing 8lb 9oz, so my muscle memory was not coping well with the lightness of the Purdey. A change of technique was required.

“Pull!” This time I shot the driven much quicker. Smash! Smash! I then proceeded to ask for a decent crosser. The RBSS is predominantly a game practice ground, so there are not so many crossers available. But the chap taking us round said: “Oh, we have a good crosser.” Game on!


A few stands up I stood in the cage and was shown the target, a left to right. I thought that it was a close target, but the chap said it wasn’t the ‘good crosser’. I proceeded to load the Purdey with a 24g fibre wad, though I prefer plastic as I feel it holds a better pattern, pushed the auto-safety off, called “pull” again and hoped that I would actually hit something. And hit the crosser I did, a pair dead, and pretty good ‘kills’ too.

The next crosser was a bit further out and a better target. I was told, again, that this was not ‘the’ crosser. This one was a right to left, so safety off and pull. Smash! Smash! I was starting to get a good feeling now with the lightweight Purdey. Next crosser, again, a little further out, still not the monster target. Again, smash! Smash! Then here it was, a proper good left to right crosser, high over the far bank trees. Though I was becoming more confident, it was still to my surprise that I succeeded with another two hits.

The gun had started to impress me. It felt agile in the hands and once I became accustomed to not hefting it around like the heavyweights that I’m used to, it handled well, going to point of aim extremely easily.

We then moved on to an even bigger crosser, off the tower using an ABT adjustable trap. Here, I missed my first target. Second try and I forgot to take the auto-safety off. I asked if the auto-safety could be locked for us clay shooters. Answer: yes, it can. The trap was altered to a right to left: smash! Smash! I then asked for it to be pushed as far left as possible. Excellent target here. Another couple of hits.

At this point I stood back and admired the gun. I realised that I had felt absolutely no recoil, which I normally would using such a lightweight shotgun. And to make things more impressive, the chokes used were Skeet and improved cylinder, two chokes I never use, and would never use with fibre cartridges. Purdey’s barrels patterned extremely well indeed.

The Purdey Sporter 12-bore gun is truly an English gem, apart from the weight – which is my problem, not Purdey’s. I can honestly say that there is nothing I don’t like about it. It’s smooth, handles well, patterns fantastically, and even shooting 50 shells over a short period I wasn’t at all tired, so having a lighter gun obviously has an advantage for some. Purdey has done an excellent job.

Tech specs

  • Model Purdey Sporter 12-bore
  • Bore 12-bore
  • Action Boss locking style
  • Barrel length 30in
  • Chamber 3in
  • Chokes Teague
  • Rib Slim Sporting rib, solid mid rib
  • Fore-end Round
  • Weight 7lb 10oz
  • Price £42,500 plus VAT
  • Steel proofed
  • Custom-made stock
  • Teague chokes
  • Anti-corrosion coating
  • Rose and scroll engraving